When you find out you have cancer but that’s all you know…it’s a foxhole moment and not just once, but suddenly and often. You never know when the undertow of fear is going to pull you out, only that it will and to keep your eyes fixed on where you want to be, so you don’t get lost in the anxiety. I do better with fighting battles where I know what I face, than ones where the biggest issue is what we don’t. Right now, we’re still waiting to find out everything, and that allows for a large space of unknown to creep in. We’ll know more on Wednesday, but we have to weather each day until then with the not so subtle responses of those in the medical profession that range from an audible gasp to “Oh dear,” to faces that tell me, if it’s that bad, I want to play them all in poker and take them to the cleaners.
It is probably the unknown that irks me the most, most especially when it seems others know. Either tell me or recognize you don’t know either and put on the professional mask of unflappability. Your tells are driving me crazy –if they’re true, or if they’re not, because of what they imply.
Now I believe firmly that it’s fine to be unreasonable with God, to pay Him the compliment of asking big things. I also believe that miracles extend beyond but encompass reality. Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, He did not transmute the loaves and fishes into grapes and eggs and chicken and relishes. So I do have God on my speed dial for prayer, and we are asking that this cancer be removed. It doesn’t mean I don’t go to the doctors or don’t get surgery. It means I ask God in His providence and wisdom and generosity to heal me from this blight or help me weather it if it will bring about a better good. I don’t give that second half of the prayer without feeling the weight of it, because I know how light the former would in the moment make me. It’s the garden of Gethsemane prayer, because it is the prayer of everyone who faces an unknown that includes the possibility of something bigger than us, something we cannot weather.
But I also know our God does not immunize us from the world. Our God sanctifies our trials, our everything, infuses it with grace. God does not require we suspend reason to believe -God does not negate one gift to activate another, God subtracts nothing –and we should likewise not willfully suspend reason and call it faith. Loving and trusting God is an offering, but it is not done as a conditional transaction -I love and trust you God, and thus you protect me from harm. That treats God’s love, God’s grace and one’s relationship with God like magic, something we control and manipulate (not love).
So when I see a sign like “God is my vaccine,” I have to pause. Because I get wanting to use God as a shield, but that’s not how having a relationship with God works. God provides. God gives us graces and gifts we neither merit nor knew we needed. However, knowing and loving God is not a vaccination against suffering. It’s a relationship oriented always to our redemption, to our good. God, being God, knows what will bring the most people into relationship with Him, and be most efficacious for our salvation and that of others and that’s the deep mystery of loving an infinite loving God. We cannot fully know. The trust in God is not that nothing will ever happen, but that God will work and walk with us through all that does.
The saints in history, worked with the sick and often caught the illness of those they served –see Saint Damien for example. The saints suffered with and for the people they loved –see Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), Saint Maximilian Kolbe for another. They suffered for the faith –Saint Joan of Arc, Saint Thomas Moore, they suffered privately (Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta) and Saint Therese of Lisieux. They suffered from their own turning against them: Saint John of the Cross comes to mind. Saints first and foremost loved God. Everything else was straw, even if it was suffering. God did not deny His own Son death on a cross –so why should we think we will be spared?
There’s only one thing we know. God is love, and thus works all things to the good, even things which to our hearts and minds seem impossible. So God looks at our faith, and where our faith may lead others to faith, allows His heart to work miracles to that end. There are all sorts of miracles –some big and some small, some only seen by the one who receives it, all of which reveal God’s deep love and mercy.
What having a deep friendship with the Almighty Trinity isn’t, is a lock against pain. God’s friendship is always oriented toward the infinite being freely chosen by us. As such, because God isn’t interested in the short term, we don’t get “Hey look! A Miracle!” twenty-four seven beyond the gifts that God gives to the just and the unjust. God isn’t wanting to force our love, but to court it.
God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is interested in the long term “yes” from each soul, a yes which recognizes God answers all prayers and is ever present and always deeply in love with us. We cannot escape His devotion to us, we can only run toward or run away from that love. So all that God does, is oriented towards loving us to the point of our trusting Him and saying, “Yes” to His love.
God is not a vaccine against the world. God is the cure for all the wounds of the world, suffused in the world. So yes, God is the co-pilot, but He lets us drive. God wants to shield us from ills, so we should eat healthy, take care of our bodies and minds and souls with exercise, good books and sacraments. We should mask. We should wash hands. We should social distance. We should take the vaccine. It’s really that simple and that straight forward and who knows, God might work a miracle in the meantime just to show us, He’s got this. If he does, rejoice big time! If He does not, there is a bigger miracle to anticipate, a bigger reason to say, “Yes.”
We must simply wait.